Empowering Women

Women becoming symbols of strength for river rejuvenation projects in Tamil Nadu

Women from Kammavaanpettai village in Tamil Nadu have taken up the mantle of leading the River Rejuvenation project to restore Naghanadi river in their village.

75% of men in Tamil Nadu are unmotivated to work due to paltry salaries and are under the spell of alcohol, spending money meant for the family to buy wine from local alcohol shops. The remainder of the local men go to migrate to cities to earn a living for their family – however, the latter results in an uneven state of affairs where the household has to wait for an inconsistent income from sporadic small jobs from the father.

Witnessing the dire state of affairs, the Art of Living Water Projects team has decided goaded the rural womenfolk in Tamil Nadu to work and become living symbols of the strength of feminine power.

The Water Projects team drives a self-employment initiative in the women by conducting the Art of Living’s Rural Happiness course – a self-empowerment and personal development program- and facilitating the women with the necessary community capacity tools to create success for themselves and inspire others like them.

The projects give the women a newfound sense of confidence and dignity.Under the MNREGA scheme, the women are able to earn an independent livelihood and support themselves and their families.

Shanthi from Salamanthanam says, “After we’ve brought this project to our village, not only do we have sufficient water, but we’re also earning well through the 100 days scheme (MGNREGA). Our people and our farmers are very happy.”

Amsaveni says, “ Now I do not have to ask my husband and wait for him to give me money to buy basic goods for the household, myself or my children. I can buy them on my own.”

The women also feel a renewed sense of empowerment and inspiration to explore their capabilities. “We were asked to dig wells upto a depth of 20 feet. We didn’t believe we could do it. But, once we began, there was no stopping us till the job was done!,” beams Anandi, a local village woman in Kammavaanpettai working for the river rejuvenation projects.

“It was difficult to dig the wells at the start but after the wells were dug I was very happy.” adds Revathi.

Seconding Revathi, Chitra says, “We dug the wells, placed the concrete rings and closed them with slabs. I’m overwhelmed at how much we’ve done; just us womenfolk!”

Likewise, in Kannamangalam, another village in Tamil Nadu with primary women labour force depends on female folks to even build the construction material.” in The cement rings which are the primary components of the recharge wells are built in-house, to the desired thickness and height, solely by the womenfolk”, notes Mr. Chandrashekar Kuppan, a team leader for River Projects in Tamil Nadu.

The involvement in the projects gives women a sense of accomplishment, worth and motivation to be further involved in community initiatives.

Vijayakumari, working under MNREGA to build watersheds to revive Naghandni rives notes, “Our people worked hard and are now reaping the fruit of their toil The villagers from Salamanthanam are overjoyed to see water in their wells after 15 years!”

Balaram, a panchayat leader from Salamanthanam shares, “Our wells which have been dry for over 15 years, now have seen increasing water levels, thanks to committed female workforce dedicated to this project” he adds. “I believe that if the Art of Living’s River Rejuvenation project is undertaken in every village in Tamil Nadu, we can eliminate the problem of water scarcity in its entirety,” he adds with conviction.

Besides earning an independent livelihood, the women develop relationships and friendships on the values of for seeing values of self-respect, dignity, and equality and build a strong network to mutually support each other.

Working for the river rejuvenation project has transformed the underprivileged wives, mothers, and sisters of Nagara into self-dependent women. Having found their own footing they can now move forward confidently to ignite the flame of inspiration in the hearts of other rural women, both in the region and throughout India.